I really shouldn’t like this album. It’s sharply produced and poppy. Goddammit. I hate when this happens. Alright, Great Northern. You got me. Even though at times you sound like what Kelly Clarkson wants to sound like (with savvy production), you got me. Remind Me Where The Light Is is one of the best pop albums you’ll hear this year. And no, they’re not on a major label. But Great Northern have had the good fortune (and talent) of executing what so many big acts with major label backing have repeatedly failed to do. That, of course, is making a slick, well (but not over) produced album with appeal and marketability without sacrificing artistic integrity or coming off as vapid and sparse. Much credit must be given to producers Michael Patterson and Nick Jodoin who made sure every song on the album was the best it could possibly be. This album exemplifies what a good pop album should sound like when an artist reaches their potential.
The album starts off strong and with momentum. Story is the first track on the album. Immediately it is clear that the band has a penchant for laying down catchy beats and wrapping even catchier vocal melodies around them. The next song , Houses is even more impressive in this respect, and the sultry and sensuous vocals of Rachel Stolte begin to make themselves evident and one can’t help but hear tinges of PJ Harvey. Her voice layers a sexy and enticing sheen across the remainder of the album. Stop, the fifth track on the album, ironically, is where the momentum of the album ends. This by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing; with proper execution there’s nothing wrong at all with slowing down the pace. Compared to the tracks that preceed it and follow, Stop sounds clumsy and forced. This may be due in part to the fact that Rachel Stolte doesn’t sing on the track. In any case it’s the least impressive song on the album by this point. The album picks up the pace a bit with the next song. New Tricks is ripe for the picking for a make-out scene in one of those hip TV shows geared towards the 16-24 demographic (Gossip Girl anyone?). This song is also one of the sexiest songs I think I’ve ever heard, up there with Mercy In You by Depeche Mode, Angel by Massive Attack, or anything off the first Portishead album. Here Ms. Stolte’s voice really exhibits its sultriness and sensuality. If you got a girl over and she’s on the fence about things, save your breath and let Great Northern do the talking here. She’ll be doing the walk of shame in the morning, I assure you. The album really peaks at this song, for nowhere else on the album do Great Northern manage to be so evocative. Mountains kicks things up into 4th gear once again. The marching drumbeat gives the entire song a sense of purpose and urgency. Warning is another of the least impressive songs on the album, and once again Ms. Stolte is not singing. Clearly there is a pattern here. It is also one of the sparser songs musically, which is where the band falters repeatedly. They can only hit the mark when attempting thick and textured tracks. Anything less comes off simply as mediocre; the simpler tracks such as Warning or Driveway seem meek and small in the face of the better and thicker songs which make up the first half of the album. Numbers manages to validate listening to this album the entire way through though, and though 33 is a prime example of their inability to articulate sparse numbers well, it is a fitting last track to the album as both Rachel Stolte and Solon Bixler harmonize over a single guitar and a twinkling piano.
Despite some points of mediocrity, Remind Me Where The Light Is manages to impress overall. Pinpoint production and evocative harmonics make this album a worthwhile endeavor for any pop fan and is perfectly suited for an evening ride alone down the highway, or with a fat bowl of hashish (in your hookah) and a beer with the lights down.
Remind Me Where The Light Is drops April 28th on Eenie Meenie Records.